Do you think different cultures see colors representing different things than we normally find in the western world?
Brides in China wear red for luck. In the US they might look like tarts or very aggressive women in red satin and lace. In China,white doesn’t mean purity, but death. Yikes!
Care to comment?
To start with, colour can be read on a number of levels.
1. Physiological reactions
2. Natural associations
3. Cultural associations
4. Psychological reactions
Let’s look at a couple of colours – red and green to see how each of these effects changes the way we view the colour.
So to start what are the physiological effects of colour?
Scientists have proven that red raises our blood pressure and stimulates us. Whilst green, especially that true green of foliage is calming to our nervous system.
Many hospitals paint their walls green as it has been shown to help the healing process and keep anxious patients more calm.
What are the natural associations?
Red – fire, blood, stuff that we may need to react to quickly, so it’s important we are awake and focused around red.
Did you know that sporting teams that have red uniforms are more likely to win? And men who see women in red feel more amorous toward them (raises their blood pressure!).
Green – trees, grass, leaves, when all is well in the world we are surrounded by lots of lovely green in nature, our crops are growing, the weather is fine, it’s not either snowing or drought.
Then we have cultural associations:
Red – in China red is considered a lucky colour, so to ensure that the marriage is good, they choose this colour.
If a western bride were to wear red, she would be considered a slapper – the Scarlet Letter A was worn by adulteresses, not a colour that the ‘pure virgin bride’ would want to be associated with.
Yet red is associated with Valentines Day, and is the colour of the roses we choose to give our love, it incites passion.
Green is associated in the US with money (the greenback), in Ireland with luck, in Australia with a political party and in Pakistan it’s a colour of national pride as green is the colour of their flag.
Psychological associations also influence, so red is colour of power, many politicians choose to wear red ties to show their dominance.
Green with envy is a common phrase, probably dating back to Shakespeare (though there seems to be many different historical opinion on its etymology), but green being associated with the look many get when they are sick, then it is another way of saying ‘sick with envy’.
Green rooms are used in TV studios, to calm the guests before they go on.
So when I go to buy a loaf of bread in the supermarket and there are many loaves displayed in their different coloured wrapping, which do I choose?
The one in red that gets my attention first and makes me feel hungry?
The one in green that must be the freshest and most ‘natural’?
Marketers use all these known associations with colours when choosing colour palettes to brand their products, when you consider how we are surrounded by colours, have you thought about how the colours you wear are affecting those you come into contact with each day? Do you choose colours to have specific effects?
Watch the colours of the ties of your politicians, you will notice that blue and red are very common. Blue is a colour associated with the conservative side of politics, whilst red is associated with the left. Blue also calms us, makes us feel safe and secure, and says ‘trust me, I wouldn’t lie to you’.
Colour is complex but so important, why don’t you see if you notice if people respond to you differently when wearing different colours?